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Hank Azaria Says 'Brockmire' Has Been With Him For Years

Hank Azaria as sportscaster Jim Brockmire — a character he says has been in his head for decades.
Erika Doss
Hank Azaria as sportscaster Jim Brockmire — a character he says has been in his head for decades.

Brockmire is back! Jim Brockmire, the beloved old voice of the Kansas City Royals baseball team, who became one of the first Internet sensations 10 years ago when he shared the shock of walking in on his wife in the middle of an orgy without dropping a moment in his play by play.

Emmy-winning actor Hank Azaria plays Brockmire on the IFC series of the same name that premiered this spring — it's the story of a man coming back to life in minor league baseball, now the voice of the Morristown Frackers. He tells me — in character — that Brockmire has been with him for a while. "He's been with me since I was a teenager. By the way, you did a wonderful job of cleaning up for your audience what Brockmire really expressed there. If you tune in to the show, you'll catch some blue language, some more graphic detail, as we like to say!"

Interview Highlights

On sending the show to Bob Costas

I couldn't believe it — he absolutely accurately defined the character's voice. He called it "the generic baseball announcer's voice of the 1970s," which it absolutely is. It's no one distinct. People ask me, who'd you base it on? Is it a conglomeration? And I grew up a Mets guy, so that was Bob Murphy, Ralph Kiner, Lindsey Nelson. It's none of those men. It's closer to the TV pitchmen who sold you the Ginsu knife, or told you about Popeil's Pocket Fishermen. And the comic premise ... became, do these guys always sound like this, even when they're at home, if he's drunk on the air having a completely explicit inappropriate meltdown about his wife's infidelities, does he still sound like this? And does he still give you the count afterwards?

On whether Brockmire is his alter-ego

My stock in trade is voices, so there literally are so many, I don't consider any — the closest to an alter-ego I have is [in character voice] Moe from the Simpsons, because I've been doing Moe for so long, and I actually was a bartender myself, that I like to think of it as, if I didn't get my Simpsons job, instead of Moe the bartender, I'd probably be Hank the bartender. Moe is a New York guy, he's from Queens — to me, he often feels like a sort of a dark, shadow, New York version of myself? But Brockmire, no, but he was a go-to voice that I would entertain myself with a lot in lonely moments as a youth. I would just kind of narrate my day sometimes as Brockmire.

On Brockmire's alcoholism

We made this as a short for Funny or Die, which was pretty sophomoric and funny. And frankly, the only reason he drank was to allow him to melt down on the air and be so explicit like that, it's just a believable excuse to be that foul-mouthed on the air. But what the writer saw in it was a portrait of a pretty lonely alcoholic. And then the director really took that ball and ran with it — he didn't let me get away with anything less than honoring the dark night of the soul that Jim Brockmire was experiencing. Which was funny to me, because to me it was really just a jumping off point for comedy, but as I was acting it, and working on it as an actor, not as a producer or developing it, I realized that ths was quite emotional stuff. And it's not sentimental, but it's highly emotional.

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Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.